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Great Basin National Park Experiments (GBEX)
Department of Geography - The Ohio State Univeristy - Byrd Polar Research Center
project leaders (alphabetical)
- micro- and mesoscale climatology Jason Box, Ph.D.
- hydroclimatology and stream and lake geochemistry Bryan Mark, Ph.D.
- paleoclimatology and limnology David Porinchu, Ph.D.
The Ohio State University department of Geography maintains a field research program at Great Basin National Park with partial support from The Western National Parks Association. Ohio State Geographers have made annual research excursions to the Park beginning in 2005. We maintain a variety of observations over a multi-year time scale. Our specific research objectives have been to:
- quantify seasonal and interannual variability of temperature and humidity across the range of elevation and bio-physical systems in the Park;
- analyze biological and physical characteristics of lake sediments to reconstruct multi-century thermal and hydrological variations;
- use daily temperature records and geochemistry to trace the seasonal contribution of different waters sources (snowpack, groundwater, glacier/permafrost) to stream flow;
- obtain repeat metric photographs of rock glaciers on Wheeler Peak to derive motion and glacier water budgets;
- measure evaporation from sub-alpine lakes in GBNP using detailed energy budget measurements;
- train students in bio-physical field research design and methods.
Changing climate and drought are likely to occur in [Great Basin National Park (GBNP)]. A recent study has provided convincing evidence from climate model simulations that up to 60% of the climate related trends in river discharge, winter air temperature, and snow pack amount between 1950 and1999 are human-induced (Barnett et al., 2008). Research on past climate using tree rings has shown that droughts occurring over the past 1200 years were much larger than the recent multi-year dry periods (Cook et al. 2004), implying that any trends towards warmer temperatures could result in much drier conditions (Seager et al. 2007).
Short sediment cores recovered from Baker Lake were analyzed for organic matter content and midge community composition in order to elucidate changes in the hydroclimatic conditions that have occurred in the Park during the 20th and 21st centuries. Chronological control was provided using 210Pb and undertaken by MyCore Scientific Incorporated (Dunrobin, Ontario, Canada). The midge community in Baker Lake currently consists of a total of 12 taxa; however, the midge community was relatively depauperate in the early 20th century with only 8 taxa present until ~ 1940 AD. The midge community experiences notable compositional change in the uppermost sediment, with dramatic increases in several genera. Application of midge-based inference model for July temperature (Porinchu et al. 2007) to the sub-fossil midge remains present in the sediment core recovered from Baker Lake provided a detailed high resolution record of thermal variability spanning the 20th century. The air temperatures for the early to mid-20th century was characterized by an extended period of below average temperature and that the last two decades have seen a dramatic increase in air temperature at Stella and Baker Lake. Longer ice free seasons resulting from the later onset and earlier ice-off will lead to stronger thermal stratification and enhanced nutrient suspension. This in turn may increase lake productivity and potentially facilitate the invasion/introduction of nonnative species and may limit the ability of native fish to survive in Baker Lake.
Embedded Sensor Network
28 air temperature/humidity sensors are installed spanning a 2.4 km (1.5 mi) elevation range, that is, from the Park visitors center at 1639 m (5377 ft) to the summit of Wheeler peak 3982 m (13064 ft). Measurements made hourly are situated 1.3-2.0 m (50-80 in) above the ground. The record begins in 2005, with 4 years of data gathered and a 5th year to be gathered as part of 2010 field work in August. Analyzing seasonal means, we find that extreme thermal and hygric surface climate conditions prevail in the Park. The range of seasonal mean surface temperature is 50 °C. The seasonal surface air temperature range decreases with altitude, suggesting high elevation sites are more sensitive to large scale climate. This is more the case in in summer and autumn than winter and spring. The summer slope lapse rate in temperature is 1.8 times that in winter, caused by cold air pooling in valley. More complicated, April and May surface slope temperature lapse rates are greater than that in winter, and are attributable to warming occurring early in the valley and melt and warm conditions occurring later high in the Park. Annual, seasonal, monthly, and daily averages of hourly samples and documentation are posted here. Please do contact us if planning on using the data in publications.
Water samples are collected from surface waters (streams, lakes, and springs) in the Lehman and Baker watersheds. These samples provid a means to characterize the different surface water end-members and site interannual variability. All samples were analyzed for stable isotopes of hydrogen (2H) and oxygen (18O). Values of δ18O and δ2H were measured with a mass spectrometer (Finnigan MAT coupled to a HDO water 4 of 12 equilibrator) in the Ice Core Paleoclimatology Lab at the Byrd Polar Research Center at The Ohio State University, Columbus Ohio.
- Barnett T.P., Pierce D.W., Hidalgo H.G., Bonfils C., Santer B.D., Das T., Bala G., Wood A.W., Nozawa T., Mirin A.A., Cayan D.R. and Dettinger M.D. 2008. Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the western United States. Science 319: 1080-1083.
- Cook E.R., Woodhouse C.A., Eakin C.M., Meko D.M. and Stahle D.W. 2004. Long-term aridity changes in the western United States. Science 306: 1015-1018.
- Reinemann, S.A., D.F. Porinchu, A.M. Bloom, B.G. Mark, and J.E. Box, A multi-proxy paleolimnological reconstruction of the Holocene climate conditions in the Great Basin, United States, Quaternary Research, 72, 347-358
- Seager R., Ting M.F., Held I., Kushnir Y., Lu J., Vecchi G., Huang H.P., Harnik N., Leetmaa A., Lau N.C., Li C.H., Velez J. and Naik N. 2007. Model projections of an imminent transition to a more arid climate in southwestern North America. Science 316: 1181-1184.
See Also GBEX remote sensing